He sure has come a long way.
It was about 10 years ago that a Sequim youth named Sam Manders saw some potential in a small piece of metal. Ten years and hundreds of thousands of tab tops later, he’s built a legacy.
“At first I didn’t know its purpose,” Manders says of the Ronald McDonald House Charity’s tab top program, one that’s helped raise thousands of dollars to support the families of seriously ill or injured children.
“It was more of a personal goal,” he says. “I was naive in thinking, ‘This is going to cure cancer.’ You know, take vengeance on something that took something from you.”
It’s a reference to his father Jim, a longtime peninsula journalist who died in 2005 from throat cancer.
When he learned that those small pieces of aluminum could be recycled to bring needed respite to families dealing with cancer, he started collecting more tab tops. He plunked a few into a little jar and then into a bottle used for soap, and years later the jars turned into large cardboard boxes and garbage sacks.
“That just escalated year after year,” Manders says. “I had no premonition of it getting on the scale that it did.”
His first collection in 2005 brought in 1,581 pop tops. By 2008, his collection totaled 50 pounds worth of tab tops. By 2012, the tab top collecting had reached epic proportions with 291 pounds worth of tab tops, and in 2013, 257.5 pounds for a total of 436,720 tab tops.
Each year, Manders and his mom Kathrin Sumpter make a trek to Portland, Ore. — the closest Ronald McDonald House that supports the tab top program — and delivers it in person to Ronald McDonald House staffers.
Manders graduated Friday with about 200 fellow Sequim High Wolves. He’s headed to Pacific Lutheran University in the fall. When he goes, he leaves his hometown and his tab top collecting behind. But his legacy will carry on, thanks to a soon-to-be seventh-grader.
Carrying the load
A tab top is small, about an inch in length, and made of a high quality, high-grade aluminum. Because of its small size and per-pound recycling value, tab tops make for a good recycling catalyst for Ronald McDonald House.
The tab tops come not just from soda cans but anything with a pull top, like cans of soup and tennis ball cans, cat food and dog food.
With its first facility opening in 1974 in Philadelphia, Pa., the Ronald McDonald House provides a “home away from home” for families with seriously ill children and supports initiatives to improve pediatric health. There are now more than 300 Ronald McDonald Houses in more than 30 countries, and while some operate solely on volunteer hours and donations, some — like Portland’s — accept donations of tab tops.
Like a snowball, Manders’ efforts to collect tab tops gathered momentum each year. Contributors in Sequim and Port Angeles would contact him year in and year out and each new contact would mean a bigger haul to take to Portland.
“I have to thank my mom for … doing a lot of the calls and the driving,” Manders says. “I never really wanted to give it up. I like seeing people. We meet people (at Ronald McDonald House), sometimes out of state, people of all age groups. I kind of turned into the ambassador of P.A. and Sequim.”
Sumpter recalls meeting a family that had been at Portland’s Ronald McDonald House for about a year.
With college looming, however, Manders says he knew he was ready to focus on his studies.
That’s when he turned to a friend, Jeremiah Omann, whose brother Gabe was willing to help shoulder the proverbial load of tab tops.
“It helps a lot of people,” Gabe says of the tab top program, “and it’s going to a good cause.”
Omann is a sixth-grader at Mountain View Christian School in Sequim and enters seventh grade at Sequim Middle School this fall.
“Somebody’s picking up the torch,” Sumpter says with a smile.
Manders is gearing up for his move to PLU where he says he’s considering various fields of study, but he and Sumpter have one more trip to Portland with this year’s haul of 283 pounds, his second-best effort.
To contribute to Gabe Omann’s tab top collecting effort, call 477-6100.
For more information about Ronald McDonald House, see www.rmhcoregon.org or call 971-230-6700.
Sam Manders’ tab top collection, by the years
2004-2005 – 17.0 pounds = 28,832 tabs
2005-2006 – 53.0 pounds = 89,888 tabs
2006-2007 – 104.0 pounds = 176,384 tabs
2007-2008 – 156.5 pounds = 265,477 tabs
2008-2009 – 213.1 pounds = 361,418 tabs
2009-2010 – 258.5 pounds = 438,416 tabs
2010-2011 – 209.8 pounds = 355,990 tabs
2011-2012 – 291.0 pounds = 493,536 tabs
2012-2013 – 257.5 pounds = 436,720 tabs
2013-2014 – 283.0 pounds = 479,968 tabs
Total 1,843.4 pounds = 3,126,629 tabs
Thanks for the support
Sumpter offers “a big thank you to our loyal donors over the years,” including: Joye and Bob Barrett, Sue Hargrave, Donna Gallaher and the entire Sequim Prairie Grange, All Metal Recycling, Polly Lyle, Chris and Frank Ransom, Nancy and Sandy Goldstien, Anna Bourquin, Lorin Greene and Frick Drugs, Christlyn Hill, Gene and Maura Mattson and the Footprinters, Don Peterson, Jay Richmond and the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Diana Cristina, St. Luke’s Church, Mr. and Mrs. Della Loska, Clark and Jan Culver, Norm Olson, Sequim High School, Mountain View Christian School, Greywolf Elementary School, Gail Sumpter and Blue Sky Real Estate and Blue Sky Property Management, Ingrid Lehrer, Jackie Robins, Kathryn and Neil Fridley, Jan Reichl, Ann Olson, Joanne Alford and the Peninsula Friends of Animals, Linda Frick, Judy Harniss, Doug Atterberry, Lyn Lawson, Mary Dahl, Marguerite Glover, Peter Black Real Estate, The Oasis Bar and Grill, Neva Fowles, Doug Atterbury, Patrice Davis, Carroll Gates and the Agnew Helpful Neighbors and all the bingo players, QFC, Eric and Kathy Fehrmann, Wayne and Teresa Stone, Debra Trussel, the VFW, Peter Black Real Estate, Chrissy Amundson, Sequim Martial Arts, Sequim Gazette and the Peninsula Daily News.